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Seasonal Sauce (Newbury, Watermill)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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I'm a newcomer to music hall. It's not something that many companies seem to do at the moment, and when it is, I'm understandably not within the target audience demographic. So it was with trepidation that I took my cramped seat in Newbury's beautiful Watermill Theatre to witness the 26th annual serving of Seasonal Sauce. I was certainly the youngest person (with another member of the press) in the audience by more than 20 years, and was slightly apprehensive about what Helen Watson's show was going to include.

I really want to say that I loved every minute of this variety extravaganza, but unfortunately the opposite is true. For me the music hall style feels astonishingly outdated; the humour is tedious and often blunt, and the set pieces (songs, routines etc) are basic and cheesy at best.

What fascinated me however, was that everyone else in the audience seemed to be in fits of hysterics throughout, and the amount of singing-along that happened was equal to that of a modern pop concert! I can't completely pinpoint why, but Watson clearly has a 26th hit on her hands, and a style that I don't connect with in any way, is making an earlier generation practically weep with happiness.

There are some lovely solo moments in the show, notably from Andy Eastwood who is an incredibly talented player of both the ukelele and violin, and from Philip Day who has excellent comic timing and gives a good vocal performance. In a similar way to some sketch comedy acts though, the show is a little hit and miss; some sketches and songs don't quite work. Although for me this was irritating, I suppose it fits within music hall as a style, and the whole production felt very authentic.

The show is held together admirably by a compère, though his script isn't particularly amusing or witty, and the overall production does lack a theme/flow, which for me was probably the most tedious aspect of the experience.

The cynic within me thinks that the production is a bit of a money-spinner, with not much effort or consideration behind it, but the softer part of me admits that I don't think I've ever seen such an ecstatically happy audience before. The atmosphere is infectious, and I definitely left the theatre with a smile on my face, and perhaps with a slightly more open mind.


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